Walang Hiya - Without Shame (Part 3)
So, we've addressed body shame and professional shame this month. This week, I want to talk about pleasure shame.
Where could we even start with pleasure shame? Society seems to be all about making people feel bad for enjoying life. From enjoying rich foods to enjoying different types of sexual activity, there is always someone who disapproves because they can't see themselves enjoying those same things. But do they disapprove because they've been shamed about their pleasures as well?
It can get so complicated. So complicated, so fast.
Being in the sexuality field, there are several ways that pleasure shame comes into play.
As an educator, I am constantly encouraging folks to feel secure about the things they find pleasurable, as long as it involves continuous conversation and consent. Too often, the common thread behind many of the questions I get are about feeling "normal." Yet, if pleasure itself was normalized as well as the idea that pleasure can be as individual as humans are from each other, I don't know if this quest for feeling "normal" would be as common.
The other side of the coin is then feeling like perhaps they're "not adventurous enough." While some people might feel shame from feeling pleasure with activities that might not be as accepted in society, such as kink or BDSM, there is also the shame someone might feel from being "vanilla."
I worried about this as well, as a Sexuality and Pleasure Educator who is in a heterosexual, long-term, monogamous relationship. Am I not kinky enough to be able to speak about kink? Am I too a part of mainstream culture that I wouldn't be able to understand the relationship woes of other people in different types of relationships? I'd like to hope not, and I recognize that there's always more to learn. I also don't think that enjoying "vanilla" makes me less of an advocate for pleasure.
As a sex toy retailer, I often hear, "Oh, I don't need sex toys because I have a husband/boyfriend." I recognize that it's gendered, and it's still the most common statement I hear about why someone doesn't feel like they need or want a toy. I think it's fascinating that there is an implication that their pleasure comes from whether a partner can GIVE it to them, rather than from them having control of it themselves. It seems that there is still this idea that owning a sex toy means that someone is having difficulty achieving pleasure, either by themselves or with a partner. Or that owning a sex toy makes one lonely.
Sex toys can be a fantastic tool to help someone understand their bodies and their pleasure better. They can help with keeping things fun and adventurous with a partner. They're certainly not necessities, per se, but there is no need for shame when it comes to having and perhaps even preferring sex toys.
My hope, especially with this little exploration in pleasure shame, is that the conversation shifts away from shaming messages about how, when, and with whom people enjoy pleasure. There will never be pleasure in a "one size fits all" category. The more we accept that, perhaps the less pleasure shame there will be.
How will you be releasing pleasure shame in 2018?
........To be continued and concluded next week!